Another chapter in my ongoing musical time traveling fantasy series. This one is David Bowie (aka Ziggy Stardust) live in Santa Monica at the Civic Auditorium on October 20th, 1972;
An omnipresent cloud of smoke mingles with the stage lights above to form a surreal and colourful mist that hovers over everything. The vague shadows and indecipherable murmurings emanating from the seats below reflect an intense anticipation of something that is other worldly and does not have an immediate point of reference.
The lights suddenly dim for a moment and the outline of Ziggy Stardust emerges from the shadows. Full of swagger he pauses briefly to stare vacantly at the crowd. As the band rips into the opening chords of "Hang on to Yourself" he reanimates like a painted marionette that has suddenly had it's strings tugged dramatically upright.
Those who are not too stoned to process what is happening are awe struck by Bowie's theatrics, half believing that Ziggy Stardust is a real entity to behold. As he sings the confessional "Ziggy Stardust" it's as if he is telling his own tale in some bizarre third person narrative, daring you to participate in his sordid tale.
It would seem at any moment that his persona could self destruct, providing the alluring promise of something that is ultimately fleeting, glorious and meant to go out in a blinding flash. He does however manage to hold it together, providing enough of a human element to bring it momentarily back to earth, such as his playful Andy Warhol impression as he segues into the song of the same name.
In many ways when he sings "Life on Mars?" there is almost a wry smile behind the question mark and a vague promise that he might actually show us a glimpse another world in that same auditorium. Later, "Moonage Daydream" is shouted at points, his voice crackling slightly from strain though still able to resonate with a confident vibrancy.
When the sets ends with "Rock 'N' Roll Suicide" it slowly builds up to a climax, with Bowie declaring "Oh no love your not alone" to the enraptured crowd as the instruments come to a grinding halt. The lyrics evoke a promise of sorts to everyone present.
In many ways the whole evening is a sacred promise, like words or sounds uttered in ancient rituals by shaman who inspire both a sense of dread and ecstasy. When it all ends there is a millisecond of silence, followed by thunderous applause. Everyone present is thankful for being part of a journey that has no maps or sense of rational place. The world outside the auditorium is forever transformed.
(Note: the inspiration behind this is the recently re-released "bootleg" of this concert - the sound quality is sublime and it captures the entire concert magnificently - highly recommended. Also - I am always insatiably curious about other people's musical fantasies, so please do share!)
Related Post: Hovering Over The Abyss With Iggy Pop